Story By: TOM SKIBINSKI / LAND OF LEGENDS RACEWAY – CANANDAIGUA, NY – Can anyone top Matt Sheppard?
Not this Saturday, nor last Saturday, and not the season-opening Saturday Spectacular at Land Of Legends Raceway on May 4 after ‘Super Matt’ made it three straight in the headline Pepsi Big-Block Modified division on the Ontario County Fairgrounds.
“10 races in a row without a flat tire would’ve seemed like a feat last year, so this streak is really unbelievable right now,” remarked Sheppard, 36, on the heels of a 10th consecutive feature win to make it 11 trophies at eight different speedways in 2019. Three in a row at LOLR elevates his track total to 73, with another $2,000 added to his growing bank account. “We’ve had a really fast race car and a lot of good fortune, we’ll try to keep on going with it as long as we can.”
Mirroring Sheppard’s dominance in the open-wheel ranks, full-fender veteran Adam DePuy needed nearly every lap to register his third successive victory in the Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock main, and returning to full-time status at the fairgrounds this season, Kevin Root notched his first Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified win at the fast half-miler in three years.
Highlighting the third show of the season at LOLR was round one of the SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series. Former Big-Block Modified tour traveler Jeff Trombley matched his 305 Sprint Car victory scored last May in Canandaigua, giving the two-time reigning CRSA winged sprint points champion five checkered flags in his career.
In a special pre-race ceremony held behind the main grandstands during intermission, late engine-builder Milt Johnson was the first individual to be honored in 2019 on the Land Of Legends Wall of Fame. Father of Canandaigua all-stars Alan and Danny Johnson, who accepted on his behalf, Milt joins Alan, pioneer driver Dutch Hoag, ‘Barefoot’ Bob McCreadie and promoter Glenn Donnelly as charter member WoF inductees from a year ago.
A popular pilot of the 1950s and early 60s, Johnson never parked his no. 14 Sportsman stock car in victory lane at the former Canandaigua Speedland clay oval yet out of the cockpit the 1961 track points champion became responsible for hundreds more feature wins on and around the Ontario County Fairgrounds. Joined by co-owner Bruce Fleishman and prominent partner Harry Derleth among the core trio, Johnson’s B&M Speed Shop in the Rochester NY suburb of Henrietta emerged as one of the premier engine-builders for some of the greatest Modified drivers on both dirt and asphalt tracks throughout the Northeast.
All-stars like NASCAR Modified champs Evans and Cook, New Englanders Ed Flemke, Fred DeSarro, Bugs Stevens and Ernie Gahan, Western New Yorkers and Canandaigua winners Billy Rafter, Kenny Meahl, Ed Ortiz, Cam Gagliardi, Gary Iulg, Charlie Rudolph and Merv Treichler, along with Lou Lazzaro, Sonny Seamon and Chuck Mahoney from the East, plus Rochester-area favorites Maynard Troyer, Lee Osborne, Tom Leeson, Bobby Merz, Sonny Barron, Dick Emerson and of course Alan & Danny Johnson, all packed B&M power under the hood.
Buckled into a brand-new #27J Enders-powered TEO Pro Car on Saturday, it was Danny Johnson out-dragging pole-sitter Jimmy Maier to lead early in the 35-lap Modified main. Newcomer Dillon Groover was just as fast, blasting from eighth to second on the opening circuit in the 23-car Big-Block field before pulling away from his closest challengers Derrick Podsiadlo and Alan Johnson with five laps complete.
Kyle Coffey ended up sideways after contact exiting turn three to slow the action and force out the first of four yellow flags with a handful of laps scored. Sheppard cracked the top-five with 10 laps in the books and ran fourth when Eastern New York traveler Mike Trautschold lost his steering and broke a front shock to send him over the turn one embankment and incur a second caution period.
The ensuing lap 11 restart was all Sheppard needed as he stormed from fourth to first with both front wheels getting airborne on his high-flying #9s Hurlock Auto & Speed-Dendis Companies/Bicknell mount amidst his winning move made out of the fourth corner.
Following another slowdown for the parked car of Eldon Payne Jr., defending track champion Erick Rudolph’s bid to dive under Groover low in turn two on the lap 13 restart failed and the resulting chain-reaction knocked out Phill Vigneri III, Adam Roberts and Podsiadlo. Danny Johnson added to the list of casualties soonafter when his new ride slowed just shy of the halfway mark, ending his night 17th on the final scorecard.
Back under green, 13th-starting Billy Dunn suddenly emerged as the newest driver to chase Sheppard, yet the Waterloo warrior never wavered leaving two-thirds of a straightaway to separate the top-two at the stripe. Jimmy Phelps rallied from 14th to third, finishing ahead of Alan Johnson and Justin Haers, who began 17th on the grid.
“With the lapped traffic and a little bit challenging track conditions you always had to keep looking around and just stay on your toes out there,” noted Sheppard, on pace to capture a ninth points title at the historic half-miler. “Sometimes you don’t want to get the lead too early, don’t want to run that hard and fry your tires. Tried to mix it up a little bit to keep the tires good, run the top in turns one and two then take the bottom line in turns three and four. Fortunately, the car has been super fast and fun for me to drive, which makes my job that much easier.”
“You never really know what’s going to happen out there. Sometimes you get some good breaks in traffic or sometimes you pick the right lane and the guy in front of you picks the wrong one. And other times you might get jammed up getting to the front. Thankfully for us everything went our way tonight,” added Sheppard, who holds an early lead (191-169) in the point standings heading into round four.
While Sheppard was crowned Big-Block Modified Super DIRTcar Series champion for the seventh time last autumn, Root captured his first overall DIRTcar Sportsman Series Championship to close out the 2018 campaign. The Warners pilot got an early boost in confidence with a command-performance in the 25-lap Sportsman finale.
“Awesome to get a win here, started off the year pretty good so far and hopefully we can just keep going,” said Root, who last called Canandaigua home every Saturday in 2016 when he reached victory lane twice en route to 8th-place on the final points chart. “We’ve been going good so far so we threw some different things at (set-up) tonight and man what a difference. This car was just unbelievable, could drive it anywhere I wanted.”
Three dozen Sportsman entries arrived on Saturday requiring two consolation round qualifiers to determine the 24-car feature line-up. Heat one winner Jeff Davoli opened up an early advantage from the point before Nick Guererri tracked him down on lap on six. Seventh starting Alex Payne attracted the most attention as he rode the rim lap after lap, improving a position every time around with the Elab Smokers Boutique scoring tower recording every advance.
Payne overtook Guererri for second on lap eight before sliding too high and scraping the outside cement wall rounding turn four two laps later. The resulting caution for Payne returned Davoli to the runner-up slot yet on the restart 16th starting Root charged from sixth to second using the inside lane. Guererri suddenly slowed three laps later and Root inherited the lead before the yellow flag flew for hard luck driver Guererri with 10 circuits remaining.
Points leader Kane Bristol started 20th and ran sixth through 15 laps, finally grabbing second from Lockport invader Andrew Smith with six to go. And that’s the highest Bristol could climb as the winning no. 34 F.X. Caprara Car Co-Slack Karts-SJP/Bicknell machine of Root stretched the margin to a full straightaway with Ricky Newton, Smith and Matt Guererri securing front-five finishes at the line.
“We made some pretty big changes,” stated Root, who had just three starts at LOLR last season and after three events this year trails only Bristol (178-174) in his quest for the coveted track crown. “You kinda get used to doing what you usually do, so we figured we’re not going to get any better by doing what we were doing.”
“Don’t know if (Nick) hit a bump there, saw he folded his nose. He would’ve been tough to beat as he’s been going pretty good. Just bad luck to be honest, but he’ll get (win), he’s a good racer. So we’ll take it any way we can get ’em,” Root added.
The CRSA Sprint Car Series attracted 18 winged machines for the group’s 14th season opener with Trombley leading flag-to-flag to avenge his second-place finish in the Land of Legends lid-lifter two weeks ago.
“I had the race won the last time here and gave it away so I told the (crew) I don’t want to do that again,” recalled Trombley, 60, after the Altamont chauffeur parked the yellow no. 3A Warren’s Auto Body-Powder Tech/GFI ride in the winner’s circle to pocket a $750 top prize. “Just tried to hit my lines tonight. The guys gave me a really fast car and that made it easy on my part.”
Trombley earned the #1 starting position in the customary pre-race draw and bolted ahead of front row partner Emily VanInwegen at the drop of chief starter Scott Hixson’s initial green flag. VanInwegen lasted only two laps in the 25-lap headliner before rolling over in turn two to collect Steve Glover and bring out a red flag.
Erik Karlsen diced with 2018 CRSA Rookie of the Year Justin Mills before securing second on lap five, then was able to close the gap on Trombley by the halfway mark. Karlsen suddenly dropped off the pace with two laps to go as his fuel cell went dry, returning the spot back to Mills and also opening the door for Canandaigua regulars Jason Whipple, Johnny Kolosek and Jesse Pruchnik in the late-race shake-up.
“The track was awesome, turned out to be great by feature time after showing some bumps early on,” added Trombley, who led all but the final two laps two weeks earlier when Kolosek passed him to record his first career 305 triumph. “Want to thank all the fans for coming out tonight, got a great crowd and always fun to race here a couple times a year.”
Claiming the final three CRSA features at LOLR last summer, 2018 track 305 points champ Darryl Ruggles suffered engine issues in qualifying and jumped behind the wheel of daughter Alysha Bay’s back-up ride for the feature. Bay (7th) and Ruggles (8th) settled for top-10 tallies behind Karlsen under the checkers. Kolosek (136) and Ruggles (132) rank highest in the current Canandaigua point standings.
The SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series returns to LOLR on Sat., July 20 and Sat., Aug. 17 before closing out the five-race mini tour at the fairgrounds during the New York Nationals, Sept. 6 & 7. The winner on Friday 9/6 collects another $750 while a lucrative $1,000 top prize awaits the victor on Saturday 9/7.
DePuy opened the night’s four-star feature line-up with a narrow victory in the 15-lap Street Stock showdown, edging Canandaigua’s all-time stock car winner Mike Welch in the closest finish of the night.
“I knew when the double-zero (Welch) got his stuff figured out he’d be tough,” said DePuy, 45, after the Macedon driver reached the 40-win plateau at LOLR beginning in 2002. “We were going to get into lapped traffic and that helped me out tonight while it hurt him. But I’m sure it will turn around on me. We just work hard and keep racing, and hopefully keep winning.”
Looking to snap DePuy’s early season streak and take his 80th career checkered flag at the fairgrounds, Welch rolled around DePuy on lap seven and looked destined to reach the milestone with just four miles to go. Yet with less than two laps left, Welch got pinned down low behind Parker Smith between turns three and four and steering the black panther no. 99 IFreeze Storage & Distribution Center-A.E.Y. Enterprises-Fox’s Auto/Chevrolet Camaro, DePuy sped around the pair with starter Hixson’s white flag in hand.
“(Welch) showed me the top. I didn’t think it would be that good, so after he showed me I moved up,” described by DePuy of the winning maneuver authored in the closing stages. “We were gaining on him and I was able to pull in on him a little bit but I don’t know if we could’ve got him without the help of the lapped traffic. He went to the bottom at the end and I just stayed on top and lucked out.”
Quinn Sutherland looped in turn two on the initial lap to stack up the field and force a complete restart. Patrick Hobbs led only the first lap before 12th starting Jimmy Grant slid up and made contact helping send Hobbs’ mount into the turn four cement retaining wall.
DePuy moved past Grant on the ensuing lap three restart while Welch grabbed the runner-up spot with a handful of laps scored and was ready to pounce on the leader following a third caution period on lap seven. Grant chased DePuy and Welch across the line followed in order by Marc Minutolo and a surging Sutherland.
The curtain dropped on the night’s program with second-generation driver Nick Cooper from Waterloo capturing the 15-lap Sportsman B-Feature. Cooper shadowed class rookie Zach Payne before forging the final lead change on a lap eight restart and holding on for a six car-length victory aboard his no. 35 Honeoye Auto Parts-Cooley Construction/Bicknell entry.
“Its all about learning and just getting used to the track,” stated Cooper, 27, already a seven-time 305 Sprint Car winner at LOLR when he ran a winged machine from 2012-15. “These cars are way different than sprints so its a huge learning curve for me. The mentality with a sprint car is you drive it as hard as you can. With these Sportsman cars you have to finesse them, so its all about learning.”
Memorial Day weekend closes out the month of racing at Land of Legends Raceway with the fourth ‘Saturday Spectacular’ slated for May 25 featuring a full four-star card of Pepsi Big-Block Modified, Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman, Mike Emhof Motorsports 305 Sprint Car and Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock racing. A special KEYS Music Outreach Benefit raffle will be held during the night with race time set for 7 p.m. Pit gates unlock at 4:00 and grandstand seating opens at 5 p.m. Hot laps go green at 6 o’clock.
With the 56th season finally underway, be sure to follow the point standings and breaking news online by visiting www.LandOfLegendsRaceway.com. Advance sale tickets are also available for purchase online throughout the upcoming months. Log into the website (LandOfLegendsRaceway.com), hit the red “Buy Tickets” button on the homepage, then make a selection from the list of dates & events highlighted.
Land of Legends Raceway is located at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, east of the city on Town Line Road (County Road 10), with easy access off either Exit 43 (Manchester, Route 21 South) or Exit 44 (Farmington, Route 332 South) of the New York State Thruway, just ½-hour southeast of Rochester.
Land of Legends Raceway Event Summary – May 18, 2019
VP Small Engine Fuel presents Saturday Spectacular
Pepsi Big-Block Modified
*Feature (35 laps): 1. 9s-Matt Sheppard ($2,000), 2. 49-Billy Dunn, 3. 98h-Jimmy Phelps, 4. 14j-Alan Johnson, 5. 3-Justin Haers, 6. 19w-Justin Wright, 7. 25-Erick Rudolph, 8. 22g-Gil Tegg Jr., 9. 11j-James Sweeting, 10. 7f-Matt Farnham, 11. 12x-Dillon Groover, 12. 1-Steve Paine, 13. 77-Lance Dusett, 14. 23-Kyle Coffey, 15. 21x-Eric Williams, 16. 31m-Jimmy Maier, 17. 27j-Danny Johnson, 18. 44v-Phil Vigneri III, 19. 21p-Derrick Podsiadlo, 20. 63-Adam Roberts, 21. 28p-Eldon Payne,Jr., 22. 28-Mike Trautschold, 23. 132-Brandon Michaud.
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Payne, A.Johnson, Dunn, Vigneri, Maier, Trautschold, Farnham, Williams.
#2: Coffey, D.Johnson, Dusett, Groover, Phelps, Haers, Wright, Michaud.
#3: Rudolph, Podsiadlo, Sheppard, Sweeting, Tegg, Paine, Roberts.
SuperGen Products with Champion Power Equipment CRSA Sprint Car Series
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 3a-Jeff Trombley ($750), 2. m1-Justin Mills, 3. 38-Jason Whipple, 4. 26j-Johnny Kolosek, 5. 42-Jesse Pruchnik, 6. 66-Erik Karlsen, 7. 48a-Alysha Bay, 8. 48jr.-Darryl Ruggles, 9. X-Dan Bennett, 10. 13t-Trevor Years, 11. 53-Tom Fletcher, 12. 99-Andy Jacobus, 13. 18c-Dan Craun, 14. 75-Brandyn Griffin, 15. 56v-Emily VanInwegen, 16. 121-Steve Glover, 17. 56-Steve Cousins, 9-Jordan Noody(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Trombley, VanInwegen, Ruggles, Glover, Whipple, Bay, Kolosek, Noody, Fletcher.
#2: Karlsen, Griffin, Mills, Years, Pruchnik, Cousins, Craun, Jacobus, Bennett.
Canandaigua Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram Sportsman Modified
*Feature (25 laps): 1. 34-Kevin Root ($750), 2. 31-Kane Bristol, 3. 11n-Ricky Newton, 4. 1x-Andrew Smith, 5. 12g-Matt Guererri, 6. 20x-Kevin Ridley, 7. 56-Garrison Krentz, 8. 3m-Mike Stanton Jr., 9. 117Jr.-C.J. Castelletti, 10. 2k-Anthony Kimble, 11. 67g-Eric Giguere, 12. 1f-A.J. Lloyd, 13. c21-Jeff Davoli, 14. 9-Tim Baker, 15. 1-Billy Paine, 16. 2-Loren Lincoln, 17. 28a-Alex Payne, 18. 00-Sam Hoxie, 19. 01-Doug Smith, 20. 93-Tyler Vinson, 21. 25g-Nick Guererri, 22. 7-Paul Guererri, 23. 29g-Steve Gray, 24. 113jr.-Frank Guererri Jr.
B-Feature (15 laps): 1. 35-Nick Cooper, 2. 7z-Zach Payne, 3. 07-Brian Harris, 4. 21v-Tony Velez, 5. 92-Wesley Hayes, 6. 55-Jonathan Kuleszo, 7. 2j-Sam Junkin, 8. 23b-Timmy Borden Jr., 9. 4-Keith Stevenson, 10. 77-Benny Karlsen, 08-Kirk Reynolds(DNS)., 1L-Jeff Lawrence(DNS).
Heats (8 laps)
#1: Davoli, Kimble, Bristol, Gray, Stanton, Paine, Baker, Cooper, Stevenson.
#2: N.Guererri, Root, Lincoln, Hoxie, F.Guererri, Lloyd, Hayes, Junkin, Kuleszo.
#3: M.Guererri, P.Guererri, D.Smith, A.Payne, Castelletti, Karlsen, Lawrence, Z.Payne, Velez.
#4: Krentz, Newton, A.Smith, Ridley, Giguere, Vinson, Harris, Reynolds, Borden.
Consolations (8 laps)
#1: Paine, Baker, Z.Payne, Cooper, Karlsen, Velez, Stevenson, Lawrence(DNS).
#2: Lloyd, Vinson, Hayes, Junkin, Kuleszo, Harris(DNS), Reynolds(DNS), Borden(DNS).
Smith Bros. Drywall Street Stock
*Feature (15 laps): 1. 99-Adam DePuy, 2. 00-Mike Welch, 3. 36-Jimmy Grant, 4. 25b-Marc Minutolo, 5. 57j-Quinn Sutherland, 6. 02-Brad Steinruck, 7. 34q-Jason Quigley, 8. 86x-Casey Wagner, 9. 37x-Carl Johnson, 10. cj1-Dave Guererri Jr., 11. 8-Scott Herman, 12. 12s-Dakota Sharp, 13. 69r-Carl Whittaker, 14. 11j-Jeffrey Lalonde, 15. 74-Ronald “Bundy” Metcalf, 16. 33-William Bradley Jr., 17. 55p-Parker Smith, 18. 3-Patrick Hobbs, 4j-Jason Doty(DNS), 64-Bob Buono(DNS).
Heats (6 laps)
#1: Sutherland, Grant, Quigley, Wagner, Lalonde, Herman, Bradley.
#2: Minutolo, Hobbs, Steinruck, Guererri, Sharp, Whittaker, Doty.
#3: Welch, DePuy, Smith, Johnson, Metcalf, Buono.